It might have been 15 years in the making, and many iterations of the product later, but Nick Jones from Rewild is quietly confident that his predator trapping device is going to benefit all areas of conservation and predator eradication in New Zealand – especially when it comes to protecting our native species.
From being safer to use, to more efficient at catching predators, the trap dubbed the ‘F-Bomb’ is a significantly modernised version of what is typically deployed in the bush, and Jones background as a product designer certainly helped with all aspects of this process.
“I remember helping out a friend who did a bit of trapping work on Mt Taranaki and the devices they were using were wooden boxes with a trap inside. They were heavy to carry, to check them you had to physically get down and look into the box, and the retrieval of caught prey wasn’t a nice, or particularly safe, process.
“I thought that if this was the best that there is out there, surely I could improve things. So fast forward many years, and many thousands of dollars later, here we are.”
Of course there is a little more to the story than that, and it’s one Jones remembers most details of. From his self-confessed naivety when it came to designing predator traps, to a number of years where he simply didn’t have the capacity to work on the project outside of his other business and raising a family, the journey to the end result has taken various twists and turns along the way. But as with most things, every step was likely a vital part of the process.
“There’s a lot that needs to be covered off with a trap, from efficiency and safety to ensuring it humanely disposes of the predator. Then there is the usability factor for those checking, emptying and resetting the traps, making sure it excludes Kiwi and other animals, and that it is hardy in all types of environments,” says Jones.
Thankfully Jones was able to get a bit of help along the way, and it was a research and development grant from Callaghan Innovation, facilitated by Venture Taranaki a few years ago, which really gave him the push to double down on his product. He was also successful in gaining capital raises through the local angel group Launch Taranaki and won a $30,000 first prize from TSB Bank from a competition that was looking to get behind local innovation.
“Financially, it has been a significant investment to get this product developed, especially when you consider that I’ve literally created hundreds of prototypes over the years,” says Jones.
And where he is today is a culmination of thousands of hours of work, resulting in an integrated trap that encompasses a capture flag (speeding up the process for those walking the trap line). A hinged lid opens up, retracting the trap into a safe mode allowing easy and safe access to dispense of the predator captured inside (whereas the wooden-box versions required a screwdriver to undo the outer casing, and a number of hands to extract the animal itself).
It’s also extremely light weight, meaning more traps can be dispersed in a shorter space of time at lower cost, and it’s something that anyone can use simply and safely – Jones’ seven-year old son is an avid user.
“There can be a significant amount of labour required to get traps into the field, so anything we can do to minimise this is an improvement,” adds Jones.
“There’s also a lot of people who are very intimidated by the idea of using traps, which can limit the volunteer pool. So I’m hoping that with these being far more user-friendly, we might be able to encourage more to get involved in pest eradication.”
To get the final tick of approval for the product itself, the process involved the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) whose job it is to make sure that the traps do meet all safety and efficacy requirements – the trap meets the NAWAC trap testing guideline for ferret eradication.
“While these predators do devastate our environment, they didn’t choose to be here and they are still animals at the end of the day. So it is important that traps don’t make them needlessly suffer just to take them out of the ecosystem,” says Jones.
“It took seven trips to Christchurch to get our signoff and it was actually a great experience as each time it would help to refine the product and check that it did what it was meant to do.”
In March 2021, Jones was able to celebrate the F-Bomb officially being ready to prepare for market, and ever since then it’s been all go for the startup, culminating in the creation of a community hub that covers of all things conservation.
“We support the Taranaki Kiwi Trust and they now operate out of our building. We have an awesome relationship and we also have a lot of people coming into the premises to be involved – like the students from the local Polytechnic (WITT) who were in here doing their paperwork for the level four trapping programme.
“A lot of intangible stuff, outside of the product itself, has come together over the last few years which has been rather serendipitous – in that it’s created an ecosystem of sorts that is not only good for the environment, but helps little towns like Inglewood to grow.”
Passionate about localism, Jones was recently elected to the local community board and it was also important that the Rewild traps were made right here at home too, so a manufacturing factory was established to help create local jobs.
“I didn’t want to just be farming out production to China, as I have a high level of aspiration for the business that is not just about ‘designing a thing’.”
Story by Erin Harrison In partnership with Venture Taranaki